2024 New Year Message
Another new year is upon us. If you are like me, then perhaps this comes with vague and short-lived intentions too better look after oneself – to be fitter, healthier, and protect your wellbeing. Perhaps you paid a subscription for a Gym, or maybe you were invigorated by an icy dip in a lake or the sea on new year’s day. Or perhaps instead, for you, the new year is cause for more anxiety about the state of our environment.
However you start the new year, we would do well to remind ourselves that our waterways contribute hugely to our wellbeing – not just for those caring for watersheds, but for the whole communities who can access or even just see their “Blue space”. One event last year highlighted to me just how important our lakes and waterways make to our wellbeing. In June, as Halifax residents returned to their homes following the wildfires, they wanted to swim in their lake. But no one could confirm whether it was safe to do so. Access to and connecting with our Blue spaces is not a luxury nice to have, but an important contributor to wellbeing.
There is a growing recognition of this among health researchers. In 2018, the University of New Brunswick found that living near natural water features, such as rivers, lakes, and the ocean, may actually lead to a longer life. Recent research at Michigan State University found found proximity to lakes reduced hospitalizations for anxiety/mood disorder. Further afield, researchers in UK, Finland and New Zealand found that Blue Space is associated with appreciating surroundings, longer visits, improvement of mood, and feelings of restoration to a greater degree than Green Space.
When this summer you are wrapped up in monitoring efforts, debugging data, or getting dirty in some stewardship work, I hope you will give yourself a moment to remember that watershed work contributes to the wellbeing of everyone in your community.
So I raise a new year glass and toast all you accidental hydrotherapists out there.